America's New Dark Ages
Why has our mainstream culture become so trivial?
America's New Dark Ages
"The Culture Wars" painting by Art Van Kraft
By Art Van Kraft / filmsforaction.org

America’s Dark Ages…in high resolution color.

 

Why has our mainstream culture become so trivial? We appear to have a vital, energetic society, but most of that energy seems to be invested in just buying and owning things. If only we could celebrate life with the sheer power of a Coke commercial.

Disneyland is not a real-life adventure; it is a simulated amusement for an administered population...and for kids. Walt Disney’s plaque on Main Street touts, “Disneyland is dedicated to …the hard facts that have created America.” Maybe it’s time to look at the hard facts that are destroying her.

Have we become the Entertainment States of America? When our national classic is the latest installment of Star Wars, maybe we have. We seem to be comforted by technology in the desperate hope that special effects with reveal life’s mysteries, and we try never to be uncomfortable, it means we are sick and need treatment.

Our communities no longer have a "common wealth"...a word from our colonial past. Now, we insist on privacy and isolation, but quietly long for attachment. The modern landscape has changed intellectually. Mind chatter and an accelerated lifestyle offer no time to really think, even if we wanted to. We confuse rerunning old memories with critical thought. We seem to have this pathological fear of looking below the surface. Our experiences remain superficial and meaningless, thus we distance ourselves from the events of our own lives. We then have to be satisfied with empty successes and simulated experiences. Adventureland is not adventure. Mind numbing labor is not work.

 

In the Dark Ages of America, our society will be defined by illiteracy, celebrity and spectacle. Harmless trends will herald the future as we enthrone mediocrity.  Fast food restaurants now allow us to order by pictures, as even cashiers’ punch in pictures on the register keys. Memberships will no longer be with book clubs, but with supermarkets, then bombard us with flat screen adds in the checkout line. We will experience a poverty of the imagination unknown since the Dark Ages and we will probably celebrate it.

 The culture wars will be formed along these lines. The literate, curious imagination will exist, but at the margins of our society. We already see a divide in movies. The wide release films sell out while a quiet minority visit limited release theatres. It doesn’t take much analytical thought to run from the monster.

Even the Academy Awards was becoming too high brow. Rather than exclude mass culture, the number of best picture Oscars was doubled from five to ten. Ignorance has always demanded an audience, but a consumer culture gives it the whole stage. The chasm will only deepen until red, state blue state differences seem superfluous. A Donald Trump will be very much at home is this world.

Corporate interest should be our interests and yet they have become their own. We saw it in the corporate looting of our economy and we see it in our consumer cultures slow constant seduction. But we can be citizens with a common wealth first and consumers second. The pleasures of entertainment, celebrity and spectacle are good fun, but they need to back off.

I believe that we are designed to live vital meaningful lives. We can claim the ability to live in a world that values good over profit. We can be reckless with our thoughts and promote something other than ourselves. In 1939 novelist E.M. Forster believed in “a future where mankind’s temple is nothing more or less than the Holiness of the Hearts Imagination and our Kingdom, though we never possess it, is the wide open world.”

Art and literature can be the sign post up ahead that says, “I am the real life, head this way.”

 

Art Van Kraft is a former NPR Southern California News Director, currently a painter in the Los Angeles Art Association and fiction writer.

www.artvankraft.com (for editorial use)

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 14,088 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal
Mark Manson · 12,882 views today · There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few...
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 12,276 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
Dr. Maya Angelou: Love Liberates
5 min · 5,455 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 5,126 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 2,075 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 1,953 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,181 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,103 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Lid Is off, The Truth Is Coming Out
Charles Eisenstein · 1,056 views today · It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,022 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 964 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
Sleaford Mods on Brexit Britain
4 min · 894 views today · In early 2014 the Guardian hailed duo Sleaford Mods as ‘the most uncompromising British protest music made in years’. Here, we go backstage at a Sleaford Mods gig in their...
How to Expose Trump's Dastardly Bait-And-Switch
Robert Borosage · 818 views today · Trump is not an economic populist, he’s just playing one on TV.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 538 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 461 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Why You Should Stop Apologizing for Doing All That You Can
Kelly Hayes · 436 views today · I’ve noticed lately that a lot of allies and accomplices I talk to about NoDAPL and other struggles will name what they are trying to contribute to the cause, and then promptly...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 388 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Black on Black Crime Isn't a Myth
Donyae Coles · 350 views today · Let’s talk about Black on Black crime. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news, specifically likely in regards to Black people murdered by other Black people. Perhaps you’ve...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 319 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
America's New Dark Ages